(97.1 The Ticket) Despite a recruiting class that left many fans disappointed, Michigan climbed three spots in the latest installment of ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 for the 2018 college football season.
The Wolverines are up to No. 11, two spots behind Michigan State, who remained No. 9.
Why the jump for Michigan?
There’s hope that Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will be eligible to play in 2018. Patterson and Michigan plan to file an appeal to the NCAA, and Patterson himself has said he’s “pretty sure” he’ll win.
Patterson was Michigan’s biggest addition of the offseason. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 3,000-plus yards and 23 touchdowns over 10 career games at Ole Miss. He missed the final six games of last season due to a knee injury, but he’s reportedly already back to full health.
Michigan finished 8-5 (5-4 in the Big 10) in 2017, hamstrung by shoddy quarterback play. But they’re set to bring back a healthy amount of talent, including sophomore wide receivers Tarik Black, who missed most of the season with a broken foot, and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Per ESPN, “If Patterson starts at quarterback this coming season, the Wolverines might be poised for a big turnaround from last season’s five-loss letdown.”
The Wolverines are also expected to return eight starters on defense, which was the strength of their team in 2017. Michigan’s 2018 recruiting class was ranked No. 21, according to 247 Sports.
Michigan State held steady at No. 9 coming off a 10-3 (7-2 in the Big 10) season and returning a host of starters on both sides of the ball. That includes quarterback Brian Lewerke, who made huge strides in 2017, and running back L.J. Scott.
Lewerke was the first QB at Michigan State to rack up more than 2,500 passing yards and more than 500 rushing yards in the same season.
The Spartans will have the benefit of playing both Michigan and Ohio State at home in 2018. Their incoming class was ranked No. 32.
The top team in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 is Clemson. Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma round out the top five.